This summer as I have been moving around both city and regional areas, there is definitely one common theme, or should I say challenge, I keep coming across.
Staff have fallen off the face of the earth.
The bistro or restaurant closed sign has become a regular sight in regional areas as they struggle to operate during the busy holiday period.
The issue is exacerbated by the growing occurrence of Head Chefs leaving due the pressures of too much trade, and in already understaffed kitchens. Another scenario is that if an owner falls sick, especially if they are a very hands-on staff member, a huge hole of both leadership and high-end skill is created.
And just when you thought that was enough, there is also a shortage of potato chips, causing the need for some chip heavy businesses to close their doors or shorten trading hours; a perfect time to finally control your excess chip usage.
With these issues occurring when customers are keen to spend, after years of lockdowns, and having chosen to spend their summer on local holidays, it means many unspent dollars and disappointing experiences.
My local usually pumps throughout most of the year, with January normally a crazy month, seeing heaps of regional tourism. This year, instead, it was a constant stream of ‘booked out’ messages until finally, “bistro closed due to staff shortages”.
Many businesses have a business disruption plan for big impacts like fire etc, yet few have a plan for the staffing issues and out-of-stock food delivery. There is clearly an opportunity to create a multistage plan to be able to address the above challenges.
During my consulting, through the COVID years, I enacted many plans and also viewed many active recovery plans in action. All of them were much better than the alternative of having to close the kitchen. Some outsourced pizzas to a local pizza shop, who would deliver them for bar staff to pop through a conveyor convection oven.
I saw food truck nights to ensure customers were being catered for and clientele retained.
While some venues have chosen to reduce their menu size, some have kept it large but scale it down depending how many staff show up.
The reality is that businesses should follow a simplistic menu that junior and non-qualified kitchen staff can keep producing. Many regional venues adopt this to guarantee there is a food offering everyday, regardless of challenges.
This is the perfect time to do a total review of your operation and come out stronger with a clear plan. Failure to make changes now, will put undue pressure on your business in the future.
And while you are at it, perhaps review the whole catering operation.